3 Principles for Change in a Church

  Integral to leadership is serving as a change agent.  Yet leaders often fail in the way they implement  new ideas.  Unwise approaches often sabotage great ideas.  Applying the three principles that follow may expedite acceptance of your changes. I’m aware of a lot more principles of change, but these three deserve top-shelf priority.    People don’t trust new ideas or programs. They trust (or mistrust) people.        A leader who doesn’t initiate caring relationships with people will be more suspect.        A leader who’s relatively new to the church will seek individuals within who have “source credibility.”  By virtue of their longevity, character, and visibility, these are persons whom the majority of members already respect and revere. Getting these folks on board to help explain and promote the change increases the likelihood of the idea’s success.      A pastor I know wanted to overhaul the Wednesday evening program of his church. But he waited to propose this change until he had spent two years establishing credibility through strong preaching and shepherding of the people.  When the pastor first broached the idea in a deacon’s meeting, an influential deacon said to him, “I’m a bit uncomfortable with your idea.  But I am not uncomfortable with you.  …

3 REASONS NOT TO LOSE HEART IN MINISTRY

Feeling incompetent for required tasksDoubts about fruitfulnessConflicts/oppositionWeariness from overworkPhysical infirmitiesPersonal burdens or family tensions Those are just some of the reasons we get discouraged and our motivation for ministry wanes.Here are three insights from 2 Corinthians 4 that sustain me when people or situations threaten my resolve. 1.    We exercise all ministry “in the sight of God.” In reference to his motivation for gospel ministry, Paul commended himself to every man’s conscience “in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). Later in the same letter,   as part of a defense of his ministry, Paul insisted that he had been speaking “in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 12:19).  God was his—and  He is our—primary audience when we serve. How does that truth block discouragement?  Even when we’re disappointed  in outcomes of a program initiative, or others’ attitudes threaten our stamina, God sees that we gave  it our best effort.  He remembers our faithfulness to the task and rewards us accordingly.  Though others may fail to recognize or to appreciate our efforts,  that isn’t the case with God.  Hebrews 6:10 reveals His keen memory and offers a hint of divine compensation: “God is not unjust so as to forget your work, …

5 Reasons to Read FAIL:  Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure (by J.R. Briggs)

I’m gearing this post to pastors, associate staff members, pastoral students in Bible College or Seminary, members of church boards, and parachurch leaders. Wives of pastors will also benefit.  If you don’t fit any of these categories, this book will instill within you greater empathy for the pressures a pastor faces. Why should you read FAIL?​1.     Eugene Peterson, experienced pastor and renown author, endorses FAIL and writes the Preface. You can count on one hand the number of pastors or authors as respected as he is for godliness and incisive thinking.  Peterson’s enthusiasm for FAIL is all the prod you should need to digest the book. 2.     FAIL teems with Scripture.  Both painful and redemptive stories stitch together the book’s pages, yet J.R. bathes every topic in God’s Word.  His authority is God’s book, not his or other pastors’ experiences. Whether he’s discussing the definition of success, a leader’s ambition, brokenness, honest praying, reasons not to lose heart, or perspectives on failure, he employs stories or directives from the Bible to buttress his points. 3.    You’ll appreciate the author’s transparency. What J. R. writes about his own pilgrimage as a church worker will convince you that the book’s …

WHY DON’T CHRISTIAN LEADERS CRY ANY MORE?

​When is the last time you saw a Christian leader weep?  Have you ever heard a preacher or conference Bible teacher apologize because he or she shed tears while speaking?  Do you associate public weeping with emotional instability, weakness, or embarrassment?When it comes to leaders, perhaps we should rethink our association of tears with fragility or psychological problems.R.A. Torrey (1856-1928), a reputable Christian leader in Chicago, told the story of a businessman who volunteered in an inner-city rescue mission.  Colonel Clark spoke several times a week to the motley crew of drunkards, thieves, and gamblers.  Despite a dull, rambling preaching style, men listened to Clark, riveted.  Clark led many men to Christ.  These destitute men responded far more positively to Clark than to the more polished messages of highly-trained pastors, such as Torrey himself.According To Torrey, Clark’s secret was his habit of weeping when he spoke or made an evangelistic appeal.  The men, who had shed more than their fair share of tears over their brokenness, saw Clark’s sobbing as proof that he loved them.  For a while in his early years at the mission, Clark felt ashamed of his wailing in front of the men.  He steeled his heart, …

3 Books that Enhanced My Ministry

All leaders are in debt to authors whose books provide practical ministry help.  Here are three authors whom I can’t begin to repay. 1.        Larry Richards, Creative Bible Teaching.  (Revised, Updated version with Gary Bredfeldt, 1998) As a Christian educator, I’ve examined scores of books on teaching, learning, and classroom methodology.  But CBT remains my #1 recommendation for teachers. For thinkers and theologians, Larry’s section on “studying the Bible” shows how important one’s doctrine of Scripture is to how one communicates it.  Elsewhere in the book he examines how people learn, and the implications for teaching them.   The theoretical foundation he provides for the various steps in a lesson plan enables one to write his or her own lessons effectively, and adapt published curriculum materials.  Larry’s explanation of how to increase the likelihood of application is alone worth the price of the book. Put simply, CBT changed the way I think about teaching, and made it easier to apply classes that later trained me in the teaching/learning process.  Get the book.  Highlight it.  Strive to apply its ideas the next time you teach.  If you don’t agree that it helped, I’ll give you back the money you paid for the …

3 Questions To Answer Concerning How To Leave a Church Staff Position

These questions percolated within me when I decided to resign a full-time associate staff position: ·         Who should be the first to know that I’m resigning? An associate should inform the senior pastor or immediate supervisor before spreading the word among other staff members or friends in the congregation.  I know a pastor who felt betrayed when he was one of the last persons to learn of his associate’s resignation.  If you’re the senior pastor, talk to your elders or deacons before church members find out. ·         How can I facilitate a smooth transition to my successor?  Pose the following questions to other staff members, to the church board, and to key lay leaders whom you supervise:  What do you need from me during these last weeks?  What information or training will keep things running smoothly until my successor arrives?  Prepare a notebook or electronic file for your successor, chockfull of program information, office procedures, and policies integral to the job description.  Leave a record of key persons and their contact information.  Ponder ways to save this person’s time once he or she comes on board. ·         After resigning, how long should I remain in the church and community? The …

8 Questions To Ask When You’re Tempted To Change Ministries

“Feuding Cripples Church” That headline was plastered on page 1 of the city newspaper.  By a 17-6 margin, the deacons and trustees had voted the pastor out.  But the pastor refused to budge.  The board changed the locks to keep the pastor out.  The pastor countered with a lawsuit.  During one worship service, as the preacher’s supporters escorted him to the pulpit, they were blocked by a wall of detractors who wouldn’t let them by.  When a shouting match erupted 20 policemen were called to the scene.  When he finally got to preach, foes heckled the pastor and passed around a “competing” collection plate. When is it time to leave a church position?  To make sure your situation never merits adverse media attention, mull over the following suggestions. ·         Why does another job appeal to me?  “All the ways of man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Prov. 16:2).  If the new opportunity paid the same and didn’t promise to escalate my reputation among peers, would it still pique interest? ·         Where can I contribute most to the kingdom of God?  How has the Lord put me together to minister in His name?  Does …

6 BENEFITS OF A TEACHER OR LEADER’S TRANSPARENCY

Do the positive effects of a leader’s transparency outweigh the disadvantages? A transparent leader isn’t pretentious.  With discretion, he shares personal stories from his spiritual pilgrimage, and how the truths he’s teaching affect him.  In the company of trustworthy people, she’s honest when it comes to disclosing prayer requests.   Consider these potential benefits of self-disclosure: 1.        Your transparency will enhance your relationship with listeners or group members and facilitate more one-on-one ministry with them.  They will view you as more approachable and feel safer talking to you, since the experience you shared resonated with them.  They will believe that you understand them and will be less judgmental. 2.       Your transparency will spawn a deeper level of sharing among listeners or group members. They will be less superficial because you have set the pace.  They won’t feel like a second-class Christian because their leader has already demonstrated authenticity.      3.        Your self-disclosure will foster deeper, more authentic fellowship among followers.  Experiencing the relational commands in the New Testament requires a level of openness that not many Christians experience through their friendships or small group participation.  Without a willingness to be transparent, we can’t bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2); comfort one another …

The Most Dangerous Kind of False Teaching

Scene 1 He boldly claims that the viewer will receive a transfer of wealth from the world to their bank accounts. Debts will dissolve, they’ll get their dream house or a new car—and healing from debilitating disease to boot.    If only… If only they’ll call and ask for his free packet of “miracle water”–now available in a larger size!  That’s their point of contact with his faith, the hinge on which their personal prosperity turns. I’ve viewed snippets of numerous broadcasts, and every single time he talks about  his miracle water.  Not once have I heard anything remotely resembling a Bible exposition. Hundreds, often a thousand-plus, pack his small-venue meetings across the country.  Gullible attendees and TV viewers get on his mailing list, and send him money to pay for his broadcast time, and a whole lot more. But his is not the kind of false teaching I worry about. Scene 2 She’s articulate and steeped in Bible knowledge.  She quotes verse after verse without turning to the texts in her Bible.  I’ve heard her give a clear plan of salvation and explain the efficacy of the cross.   She travels extensively to speak, often in large church venues.  Satellites beam …

Not All That Sounds “Spiritual” Really Is

Incredulous. That describes my reaction when I heard the renowned TV preacher say it. He isn’t among the materialistic media personalities who propagate a prosperity gospel in order to line their own pockets.  His sermons accentuate sin, the cross, and a need for repentance.  That’s why his remark surprised and disappointed me. “A few of you have inquired about how our church is governed,” he announced during a worship service.  Then he exclaimed, “Our church has three board members: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”  He explained that the direction of the church and operational decisions are determined by staff who are called by God and anointed to lead it.  “And if you don’t like it, you can leave the church,” he intoned. Sounds spiritual, doesn’t it?  But my perception is that his pronouncement cloaked crass conceit. Yes, a church needs strong leaders who are visionary, who see the big picture of why the church exists, and who make hard decisions not acceptable to all members. But… Even vocational leaders whom God has called, gifted, and mightily used in the past are still sinners.  I’m afraid of leaders who aren’t held accountable by a larger …